When a loved one passes away and their will cannot be located, it can leave close friends and family with a stress-induced headache. If there is a disagreement about how to divide assets, that headache can turn into a huge legal battle. Here are some things you can do if you've found yourself in a similar situation.
First things first: Beyond searching all of the usual spots for a will, be sure to scour more obscure hiding spots, too. Your loved one could have kept a copy anywhere: under a mattress, between the pages of a book, in a box of keepsakes, in the glove box of their car—you never know where you may find a copy. Bottom line: leave no stone unturned
It is possible that your loved one filed the documents with the court, a lawyer, or even stashed them away in a safety deposit box. Carefully examine their email correspondences and bank statements to see if they have been in contact with or paid for the services of an estate attorney or a financial advisor, both of whom may have copies. If you do discover they possessed a safety deposit box, you may need a court order to gain access to that box.
Another good idea is to check in with other friends and family members of the deceased to see if they have a copy or know if the location of a copy of the will. Sometimes a close friend or family member will have served as the witness to the signing of the will and therefore may have a copy or know where to find one. Try asking the person your loved one spent the most time with; their closest friend was likely their most trusted confidant and may know where to look.
If you do find a copy of the will, the court will often probate it as long as you can prove the will was signed by the deceased. If you cannot find a copy of the will at all, you will need to seek the help of an attorney to determine how the estate should be settled.
Because it can be very difficult for your loved ones to track down a copy of a lost will after you die, it is important to leave a copy with the executor of your will. A will no one can find is like having no will at all. Working with an estate planning firm like Veitengruber Law will allow you to rest assured your wishes will be carried out after you are gone. We can help you make a plan that eases the burden of the probate process for your loved ones. Allowing your family and friends to expend their energy mourning rather than doing exhaustive searches for your will is something very kind you can do for them now that they will thank you for later.